Outta sight: Isaac, we hardly knew you

David Albers/Staff
-  Naples residents Mandy Stacy, Amber Listenberger, 17, and James Sparks, left to right, explore the weather brought to the Naples Municipal Pier by Tropical Storm Isaac on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012, in Naples. The group said they came to the beach to see what the storm would be like at the beach.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff - Naples residents Mandy Stacy, Amber Listenberger, 17, and James Sparks, left to right, explore the weather brought to the Naples Municipal Pier by Tropical Storm Isaac on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012, in Naples. The group said they came to the beach to see what the storm would be like at the beach.

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Surf courtesy of Tropical Storm Isaac.

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Scenes from the beach.

Cell phone: Lowdermilk Park after Isaac

Scenes from the beach.

Naples ready for Isaac

Scenes of storm near Vanderbilt Beach.

Cell phone: Surf at South Marco Beach

Surf courtesy of Tropical Storm Isaac.

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The hype of the storm.

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Isaac changed course Sunday, sending fear to the Crescent City and leaving prepared Southwest Floridians waiting and wet.

After emerging from Cuba, the storm peppered Key West with 60 mph winds and then bypassed Collier and Lee counties as it moved west. Isaac is expected to gain strength and credibility in the Gulf of Mexico, projecting to eventually be a Category 2 hurricane.

Next possible destination: Somewhere between the Florida Panhandle and New Orleans.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency at the same time as weather officials lifted a hurricane warning for Southwest Florida.

Collier and Lee counties escaped most of Isaac's wrath. Yet, the worst of the storm, in the form of flooding, could come today.

Scattered rain bands, winds gusts barely topping 30 mph Sunday afternoon and an uneventful tornado watch caused little trepidation. As of 8 p.m., 2 to 4 inches of rain fell in Southwest Florida on Sunday. Dozens of canceled flights at Southwest Florida International caused the most chaos.

Florida Power & Light officials reported 380 without power in Collier County at one point. There are 184,000 FPL customers in the county. A thousand homes on Marco Island lost power provided by Lee County Electric Cooperative.

Naples native Daniel Portella, 24, bought ice and rum at Total Wine on Airport-Pulling Road as rain trickled down outside. She planned on mixing the alcohol with fruit punch for a hurricane with a stronger punch than Isaac showed her Sunday.

"This is nothing," said Portella, who doesn't usually evacuate until the storm has reached a Category 3. "We're gonna ride it out together."

Southwest Florida could have something to ride today. An early morning high tide parlayed with the back end of Isaac could cause storm surge of 4 to 6 feet. Isaac is projected to pass by Collier County between midnight and 8 a.m.

"If it's a low tide, we're fine," Marco Island City Councilman Larry Magel said. "If it's at high tide, we're not so fine."

As Isaac tracks to the west, residents should be aware of potential thunderstorms, flooding and debris overnight and today, according to Collier County's Emergency Operations Center.

Dan Summers, director of the county's emergency services bureau, said the center continues to monitor the storm, which is expected to bring between 5 and 8 inches of rain.

What warnings?

Lee County ordered mandatory evacuations from Bonita Beach to Fort Myers Beach. But many didn't heed the order.

Paul Nicodemus stayed on Bonita Beach when the last two hurricanes came through, and he didn't leave for Isaac, either.

On Sunday, he took his kayak out into the waves. He piled sandbags in front of the beachfront home he house-sits each summer.

Nearly all of the other homes around his were shuttered up and appeared abandoned.

Nicodemus said he has sat in the kitchen and watched waves come up underneath the home during last two storms, and he's seen pieces of roofs fly clear across the beach in a matter of seconds.

Other people who stayed for the last hurricanes later said it was the "stupidest thing" they'd ever done, Nicodemus said. But he likes to stay.

"You can feel the power of nature," Nicodemus said. "That's the cool thing about being out here."

Finding shelter

Ohio native Thelma Elliott moved into Caribbean Park two months ago. As the 76-year-old faced her first hurricane, she and her 4-year-old Shih Tzu Tashi made sure they were first in line North Collier Regional Park at 10 a.m.

Both Collier and Lee counties opened shelters.

"She's really good, she doesn't bark," Elliot told Collier County Domestic Animal Services staff when she learned Tashi would have to sleep in separate quarters.

"You won't be far from her," said shelter lead Kathelene Drew. "Just a door away, I promise."

Drew said 102 families registered for the shelter along with 138 dogs, 33 cats, two bunnies, two guinea pigs and one parakeet.

Not all will show. Of the 102 phone calls made to preregistered guests, only eight were returned with confirmation.

"There's a false sense of security when I'm driving in and there's a beautiful sun on my left and a rainbow on my right," Drew said. "Right now people are at home drinking their coffee. But when that first deluge of rain happens, that's when they'll come."

Collier County closed five shelters at 7 p.m. Sunday as weather conditions improved and power outages were few.

Majoring in storm

Ave Maria University, Florida Gulf Coast University and Edison State College cancelled Monday classes. Collier and Lee County public schools also cancelled classes.

The residence halls at FGCU were quiet Sunday afternoon.

Nearly 90 percent of the 4,210 residential students left campus with the storm approaching, university spokeswoman Susan Evans said.

Junior Slade Schell, one of 500 students remaining, enjoyed the peace.

"It's like free study time," said Schell, 20.

He said the dormitories cleared out Saturday after school officials sent an email encouraging students to go home, and mentioning evacuating the dorms.

Schell, who grew up in Florida, was unconcerned. He pulled a pizza out of the oven, ready to return to studying.

"It would almost be too quiet if I didn't have the TV on," he said.

A few buildings over, a group of friends prepared a Slip n' Slide party at a friend's house. The three sophomores weren't worried about the storm, though the same couldn't be said for at least one set of parents.

Vicki Ewell said her parents, who live in Kansas, are "freaking out."

"My parents are calling like, 'Be in the bathtub and wear a helmet,'" the 19-year-old said.

Instead, Ewell and her friends planned to spend today at the beach.

Open for fun

Mike Castellano knew there was no sense hanging out the "Open" sign Sunday at his Capri Fish House restaurant on Isles of Capri.

Instead, he cleared the tables from the middle of the waterfront tiki bar out back to make room for a game of cornhole, where players try to throw bean bags into holes in pieces of board on the floor.

Add some ribs and kielbasa, reggae music, a steady drip of rain-weary friends looking for a cold beer — plus Miley the dachshund and Mario the lab-pit bull puppy scurrying around the wood plank floors — and it's a hurricane party.

"That's all we've been doing all day," 20-year-old local Ashley Filer said. "Playing cornhole and eating."

Goodland and quiet

The streets of Goodland, where many residents live in mobile homes subject to the county's voluntary evacuation, were deserted Sunday afternoon.

Plywood covered the doors and windows at The Little Bar on Goodland; one was spray-painted, "See You in October."

Stan's Idle Hour, which is closed for August and September, was draped in drizzle Sunday afternoon instead of the usual crowd of revelers.

On Marco Island, city officials warned against joy riders taking to the streets overnight to check out flooding and urged residents to stay indoors.

Fishing weather

A lone angler cast into the spitting rain Sunday from the dock at Caxambas Pass Park on Marco Island.

"I'm the only one here," said Rose Killoran, 60, visiting from Chicago. "I'm the only crazy person."

She arrived at the dock about 8:30 a.m., catching redfish and pompano, as the winds picked up and the rain fell harder.

Killoran said she wasn't in a rush to head for cover.

She has to leave Tuesday, and she still has 12 shrimp left for bait.

"I figure this is my last chance," Killoran said.

Over at Bonita Beach, Chris Relli tossed a small fish back into the Gulf.

Relli, 50, has lived in Southwest Florida all her life and wasn't fazed by Isaac.

"We take the opportunity to go fishing," she said with a smile.

Relli said she's heard the lowered barometric pressure sends fish into a feeding frenzy. She said she caught her biggest snook here during Hurricane Andrew.

With Isaac's help, she hoped to catch another.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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